Bright spots on Ceres may be made of smaller patches of ice

Ceres bright spots

Two bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are actually several smaller spots, seen in this May 4 image from the Dawn spacecraft. These spots may be patches of ice, scientists say.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Ceres is revealing more about its pockmarked surface. Two ambiguous bright spots, first seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003, appear to be a cluster of ice patches nestled at the bottom of a crater, new images from the Dawn spacecraft suggest. Some scientists had previously suggested that the spots could be water vapor plumes erupting from Ceres’ surface.

Dawn arrived at Ceres on March 6. On May 10, the spacecraft started a monthlong drop to an altitude of 4,400 kilometers above the dwarf planet. From there, Dawn will spend three weeks mapping the surface of Ceres.

headshot of Associate News Editor Christopher Crockett

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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